Drum Major Brian Brendel, of the Prescott Memorial Pipe and Drums, directs the group at the memorial service Tuesday.
Photo credit: AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Kadlubowski
Thousands cried as they applauded the sole surviving Granite Mountain Hot Shot when he stepped on stage during an emotional memorial service for his 19 colleagues.
Brendan McDonough, 21, received hugs from everyone on stage including Vice President Joe Biden and Gov. Jan Brewer.
The capacity crowd that included fire and rescue personnel from around the world sat and became silent as McDonough stepped up to the podium to recite the Hot Shots' Prayer.
"When I am called to duty, Lord ...To fight the roaring blaze ...Please keep me safe and strong ...I may be here for days...Be with my fellow crewmembers ...As we hike up to the top.,,Help us cut enough line ...For this blaze to stop...Let my skills and hands ...Be firm and quick...Let me find those safety zones ...As we hit and lick...For if this day on the line ...I should answer death's call ...Lord, bless my hot shot Crew ... My family, one and all."
An emotional McDonough added: "Thank you, and I miss my brothers."
Dignitaries on the stage each gave him another hug before he left.
McDonough, the lookout, tried to warn his team that the fire was headed their way, Officials say he was doing his job when the others were overrun by the flames.
Biden, who was shown singing along as a choir performed 'On Eagle's Wing,' praised the firefighters for their sacrifice. He said they saw their jobs not as jobs but a duty.
"These men were some of the strongest, most disciplined, tenacious, physically fit men in the world.An elite unit in every sense of that phrase," he said.
In front of large portraits of each hero, wildland firefighters' helmets sat atop pulaski tools placed in boots.
Brewer, who ordered state flags to half mast for 19 days, thanked people from around the nation for their outpouring of support.
She spoke of their endurance, pride and skill adding that the 19 heroes "were gone with the turn of the wind."
"Of course our hearts are filled with profound sadness today, but they're also filled with great pride," she said adding that the state was proud to have all of them even those who weren't actually Arizona natives.
Dressed in a black t-shirt and khakis, Prescott Division Chief Darrell Willis explained the Granite Mountain Hot Shots would expect nothing else -- and be proud.
He said he was proud they allowed him to be part of their lives. Willis went on to say the Granite Mountain team is the only municipal hot shot crew in the nation.
Willis considered each his adopted son, and shared a personal relationship with each of them.
As families were often the topic of coversation, an emotional Willis said: "...I love everyone of you..."
Dan Bates, of the United Yavapai Fire Fighters Association,Local 3066, interjected scripture as he spoke about his fallen brothers and the sacrifices.
The crowd rose to its feet and applauded when he noted that even though the past nine days have been full of tears and sorrow, the Prescott firefighters have continued to answer the calls for service.
He recalled one of the fallen hot shots had texted his mother telling her the fire growing larger. When she told him he should rest, Bates said the firefighter answered that there a ranch in its path, and he needed to protect it. He would rest later.
The ceremony was broadcast on jumbo screens so those who didn't get one of the 6,000 seats in the center could watch. Thousands sweated and fanned themselves in the 102 degree heat in a parking lot to pay their respects.
The U.S. Marine Corps performed a flyover -- the missing man formation -- to honor the hot shots, some of whom were Marines.
The service was steeped with tradition including bagpipers and the ringing of a bell to signal their last alarm. Instead of the usual 5-5-5, the bell rung 3-3-3.
Families of the fallen firefighters were presented with U.S. and state flags as well as a Pulaski tool. The IAFF also handed out special coins.
Phoenix firefighters handled calls in Prescott on Tuesday so the crews could mourn and offer their brothers a final salute.